DEHRADUN: With the Ganga in full spate near Gaumukh, the point of its origin, priests of the Gangotri temple have over the past few days, shifted documents from the shrine’s “record room” to a safer place. The renowned temple built in the 18th century, which is also one of the four Himalayan dhams, is situated close to the river and priests say that its record room could be the first casualty if the waters of the river continue to swell. The record room has thousands of “bahi” (particulars of families of pilgrims), which belong to the over 250 priests who work at the shrine.”For us, the bahi (record books) are extremely important so we decided to shift them. We continue to offer daily prayers for the safety of the shrine and the pilgrims who are coming here,” said Ashok Semwal, a priest at the shrine.

He added that the river had swelled considerably in the past few days giving everyone “sleepless nights.” “The Bhagirathi shila — the stone near the temple where Raja Bhagirath had meditated to bring the Ganga to earth — had submerged in the river water a few days ago.” On Monday, as rains let up a bit, the river water receded and the Bhagirath Shila reappeared, much to the relief of Semwal and the other priests.

Locals said that the tumultuous surge of the river due to the torrential rains had already damaged two ashrams and ghats. During the past three days when rains were in full force, many of the priests had to sit huddled inside the temple campus praying that the river waters did not flood the premises. “I have been born and grew up here but never saw the river damaging buildings and ghats,” said Semwal.

Meanwhile, district administration officials said that they were “monitoring the water level of the river and would take up the work of repairing of the ghats after the rains subside.”